Oakboro business association hosts candidate forum

Candidates took the stage recently at Oakboro First Baptist Church to participate in a forum to answer questions before public.

The forum was sponsored by the Greater Oakboro Business Association, whom solicited questions in the time up to the forum from the public. Six candidate questions were sent to each candidate, with four questions asked randomly to the candidates. The order and content of the questions were selected by the GOBA.

Three mayoral candidates, Lisa Cratty, Chris Huneycutt and Bobby Watkins, along with town commissioner candidates Lee Huntley, Fred Smith, Latoya Jackson, Bud Smith, Brett Barbee and Joey Carpenter, took part in the event.

One question was asked to each candidate: what is the most important issue facing the Oakboro community?

Huntley said, “in order for (Oakboro) to grow, it will have to expand its city limits. To expand the city limits, you have to change some of the zoning laws and restrictions.”

He also said, “there is very little activity in Oakboro for our young people…even though some of them play sports, some of them have nothing to do. We need to expand on that.” Huntley also said more youth activities “would entice people to come to Oakboro.”

Fred Smith said growth is the biggest problem in Oakboro. “Growth is good, but we have to look at our schools. We can’t stress them out. We have to look at our police department, our fire department and sewer system here.”

Noting he comes from a small town, China Grove, he said the town “had a boatload of growth, but it grew too fast.” He said the added people in town turned a short trip into “sitting there 20 to 30 minutes to get from point A to point B.“ He also said he did not want the town “to stress our resources.”

Jackson said the town’s budget was one of several issues with which she was concerned. Referring to her experience in banking, she mentioned her previous time on the town council where finance was her focus.

Schools is another issue, Jackson said, noting, “our schools need to remain a safe haven for our kids. There is no current resource officer there on school premises. That is the number one topic that we should have.”

She also noted communication between the board and the citizens is very important, adding, “whatever we are discussing, we have an open line of communication between the citizens and every department that serves on the board.”

Bud Smith said when he first came to West Stanly High School, his motto was “the student is the most important person on campus.” He added he was not “afraid to vote against the board,” noting his vote against a property rezoning upon which a new Bojangles restaurant was going to be built.

Smith also indicated he can bring wisdom to the council, saying, “knowledge is good, but wisdom is more powerful.” Barbee said the most important issue facing Oakboro is over-development, adding, “our current infrastructure just can’t handle it. We know that’s coming; we have to put certain procedures in place to prevent that…we can’t be scared to reach out to experts. Let’s do some impact studies. Let’s find out what’s going on and what we are going to need to make quality, factual, educated decisions for 2040 and 2050.

Carpenter said everyone “would agree growth” is the answer to the most important issue facing Oakboro, adding, “most people who move here come for the same reason: (living in) a small town.” He noted the recently passed moratorium on new multi-residence housing developments, saying when the new board meets, he would like to see a meeting between town council and the planning and zoning board.

He added the two boards “should put their heads together immediately to come up with a plan for the direction Oakboro needs to be going in. Don’t wait until 2024 or 2025; start 2022. Once a rough draft is developed between the two boards, I would like to get input from all the citizens before finalizing. We need to be looking five, 10, even 30 years ahead.”

Cratty said she would like to keep the “small-town feel and quaintness of our town while thriving and growing in a positive way that encourages and supports small businesses, churches and young people.”  She added community involvement was a big issue, saying “it would be nice if this many people felt comfortable coming to the town meetings and we could get input from our citizens.”

Cratty also said she would like to see more community activities which “would bring the community together” like a community garden. She also stated she would like to see the town work more with the local volunteer fire department to “encourage volunteers, get these young people out of the house and volunteer.”

Huneycutt, speaking about his time on the board, said the council “foremost has to consider the changes that are coming through growth, including maintaining what he called “a wonderful police department” and “outstanding firefighters.”

He added, “providing safety is important to the citizens because it means a great deal to the citizens. That is what their concerns are.”
Watkins said he knows growth is coming, saying, “we want people to come here to live…we’re going to have to take care of our sewer system.“ He added some lines are 50 and 60 years old and “need to be replaced.”

He also said he wants the town safe, adding “we have to back our policemen.” Watkins also noted the strength of the town’s parks, saying “let’s make Oakboro beautiful.”